After surviving an SCI, we are encouraged to pour enormous amounts of energy into rehabilitating our broken bodies. Although I’ve been rolling around for 11 years, getting physically stronger each day, there is still one lesson I wish I’d have understood from the very beginning. We need to put an equal amount of focus into mending our minds. This blog post is dedicated to one strategy I intentionally use to take care of my mind and stay out of the pity pit. It’s a mantra called “Life Happens. Live It!”
There are thousands of catchphrases out there, but this one is particularly useful to people like us who must deal with mental struggles that no one else sees. “Life Happens – Live It!” or LHLI for short, represents a commitment to a mindset where we focus on what can be accomplished instead of what stands in the way. In 2008, my world was shattered by the terrifying snap of a broken neck. A one-second decision changed every second for the rest of my life. After a few days of sobbing and semi-conscious mourning, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was about to pop. Mom’s stress level was through the roof, and it started to push me over the edge. Straining against the hard-plastic neck brace, I rotated my head as far as it would go and whispered, “Mom, would you just chill! It is what it is.” Without realizing it, this became a defining moment for our family. None of us had any clue at the time that “LHLI” had just been created.
Let’s break LHLI down into two parts. Life Happens (LH) means choosing to accept that unpredictable, bad stuff happens all the time, to everyone. While this is common knowledge, it’s unbelievably easy to sink into our own world and feel like all the bad, unfair zingers are only being flung your way. Instead of giving in to the temptation to slide into the pity pit, try replying with “Life Happens”. This separates you from the situation, reminds us we have handled adversity before and helps ward off a mental breakdown.
The second part of this mantra is Live It (LI). Consider it your reminder to ask yourself “What next?” or “Now what am I going to do about it?” Too often after something unexpected happens we just sit there, accepting that this kind of stuff always happens to us, spiraling downward into an unhealthy place. Afterlife happens, changing your initial reaction to be “Live It” is like setting a reminder on your phone to focus on what you need to do to move forward again. It’s simple, but not small.
Feeding your mind positive messages is definitely not easy, and I’ll be the first to admit an LHLI mentality doesn’t magically make your problems go away. I have found it does help keep me from getting stuck in the mental muck that is secretly the hardest part about living with an SCI. If you start responding to those daily surprises life throws your way with the phrase “Life Happens. Live It!” often enough, you will begin to see your caregivers, family, and friends shifting the way they talk about their challenges. Being disabled, we often cannot control much, but we do have the choice to use LHLI to create an upbeat environment which in turn, will make our everyday life better.
Life Happens. Now how are you going to live it?
Author of the book “Life Happens. Live It!”